This morning, I was able to meet a friend for a cup of tea in “The Village.” We are on The HSA (Home School Association) for our children’s middle school and we are planning a canteen, (dance) for the 7th grade.
As I sat at a table in the quaint little coffee shop, I noticed all of the little details of the building. The original brick structure, the ceiling, the floors. It is one of the things I love most about living in my town. Our “Village” is my favorite part of town and a huge selling point. I looked up the definition of “Village” today and found this,
a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.
Maplewood itself is far from rural, but it is not a big city either. The population is 24,000 yet our village pulls it all together with its charm and allure. It truly feels like you stepped back in time as you enter. Sometimes referred to as “Mayberry”, The Village is only four blocks long. It is filled with tiny mom and pop shops and restaurants. Although most of the stores have changed since I was a child, the structure and integrity of the buildings hasn’t. I remember the small pharmacy, Ken’s , the tiny pet shop, and the 5 & 10. All of them are long gone, as is Eva’s Toy Shop and Bobbi’s Barn which sold clothes for teens. I couldn’t wait to shop there as a kid and when I was finally old enough to fit into their clothes, it had closed. There were very few restaurants back then. The Mapleleaf, a diner is still around, though it has moved from a tiny corner shop to a larger location. Dave’s favorite was Savidi’s Deli. Every Sunday he’d get his favorite sandwich there after his soccer tournaments at the middle school which is right around the corner. They are no longer there but a few new sandwich shops have opened up.
There are a few original stores still there. The Barber Shop, (which changed names a few times,) feels like you’ve stepped back into time when you enter. The Maplewood Stationers, my dad’s shop, has been around since the 1920’s. There have been very few owners. About twenty years ago, my dad, who is probably as nostalgic as I am, heard that the store was going to shut down. He grew up in Maplewood and had many fond memories of the store as a kid. He had just retired from Wall Street – with NO small business experience – but decided to give it a go and buy the business. It is far from a money maker – if anything, probably more of the opposite, but it is one of those businesses that is a staple to the town.
No big chains are allowed to move into The Village due to variances and I am happy about that. It keeps the character of The Village in tact. Most of the buildings have small apartments above them. All walk ups with charming little entrances to walk through.
One thing that has changed is the number of restaurants in town. There are so many to choose from. Nights are bustling! Only three of them have a liquor license so the rest are BYO. This is another “charming” thing about The Village.
The theater has always drawn a crowd. it dates back to 1927 and began as one of the largest combined vaudeville/movie houses in New Jersey before moving on to a movie theater. In 1988, unable to fill the large theater, it was turned into a six-plex. Even these theaters are quaint though – some holding less that fifty people. I can remember during the renovation, being able to catch glimpses of the original ceiling and wishing that it could be uncovered and restored.
You get a lot of that charm still in town though. All of the store owners know each other and look out for each other. They know their customers by name and that only adds to the charm. We are lucky to live here!